Threads Of Life

Savu & Rai Jua Islands

Throughout history, Savu and its tiny neighbour island, Raijua, has occupied one of the most remote corners of Indonesia. Situated halfway between Sumba in the west and Timor in the east, the main island of Savu is roughly thirty-five kilometres long, while Raijua, a sandy spit separated from the main island by a narrow, fast-flowing strait, measures just a few kilometres in length.

Since the arrival of the Europeans in the sixteenth century, most Savunese have nominally converted to Christianity. However the relative isolation of these islands has allowed local customs to remain intact. Savu and Raijua share nearly all elements of culture: the traditional belief system called Jingi Tiu, which is based on a complex lunar calendar, and a highly developed system of male and female descent groups. The people have a strong dependence on the nutritious sap of the lontar palm that sustains them for many months during the dry season.

A cadre of Jingi Tiu priests oversee traditions on these islands. The Do Heleo administers traditional law, Pulodo Muhu ensures success in conflict, Pulodo Dahi placates the seas and Duae Bangu Udu represents the local clan. Deo Rai or Lord of the Earth protects planting and harvest while Apu Lodo the Descendent of the Sun oversees the tapping of the lontar palm.

The Savunese divide themselves into a number of male lineages (udu), each with a specific native village, and two female lineages which are not tied to any locality. These maternal descent groups are called Hubi Iki and Hubi Ae, the Lesser and Greater Blossoms. Lines of descent are not a source of conflict in Savu, but they do give rise to differences, which are expressed in the design and motifs of textiles.

Ei Ledo

Ei LedoThe two-part tublar sarong, called an ei ledo is the ceremonial dress of women from the Hubi Iki or Lesser Blossom descent group. The design strictly adheres to the traditions of the Lesser Blossom lineage. It has four blue/black (roa) stripes across each of its two panels, which are sewn together with dark indigo thread. The main, wide ikat motif of both ei raja and ei ledo features only two colors: white, and red. The motifs in the wide bands are specific to each hubi, and sometimes to smaller kinship divisions called wini, or “seeds.”

Ei Raja

Ei RajaThe Hubi Ae or Greater Blossom lineage wears tubular skirts called ei raja, named for three stripes of supplementary warp patterns that cross the piece, a technique called raja in Savunese. An ei raja traditionally has seven black stripes across each of its two panels. The main, wide ikat motif of both ei raja and ei ledo features only two colours: white, and red. The motifs in the wide bands are specific to each hubi, and sometimes to smaller kinship divisions called wini, or “seeds.”

Ei Worapi

Ei WorapiThe two part ei worapi tubular textile worn by women combines elements of the other traditional textiles called ei raja and ei ledo. The ikat motifs that are in the band called hebe in the ei worapi textile are open to the artistic interpretation of the weaver and may be dyed using three colours instead of two colours such as the ikat bands in the more conventional ei ledo or ei raja.The ikat bands near the head and foot render ei worapi ritually neutral.

The ei worapi was invented with the arrival of Christianity; it places all women on equal footing. Over time the two lineages of Hubi Iki and Hubi Ae have begun to differentiate the ei worapi according to the original lineage by dyeing the seam of the two sections where they are joined red or black – depending on the lineage.


Ei Womedi

Ei WorapiThe structure of the two-part woman’s tubular sarong called ei womedi is more similar to a third type of textile called ei worapi. Both the ei womedi and ei worapi textiles are more neutral and can be worn by women from the Hubi Iki or Hubi Ae lineages as an everyday sarong. Medi means black and refers to the use of a dark indigo as the overall colour of this textile.

Ei Leko Wue

Ei Leko WueEi leko wue is a tubular sarong is worn by a young girl between the ages of 4 – 10, before she reaches puberty. It contains no motif but is made with a simple blue-black and white stipe pattern. The use of motifs on a textile is only for girls who have reached puberty.

The young girl steps into the tube which is folded at the waist and tied in a way that creates a pouch. The nuts from Arecea catechu palm and piper betel are placed in this pouch. She is then presented to her matrilineal grandmother who takes the gifts offered by her granddaughter and replaces them with green mung beans (Vigna radiata) locally called kebui and grilled coconut. This is an early teaching of the importance of respect for elders as well as to participate in the act of giving and receiving.


Ei Pudi Wo Datu

Ei Pudi Wo DatuThe culture of Savu and Rai Jua places great weight on ancestry, birthplace, and community life. The local traditional religion, called Jingi Tiu, requires every member of the village to participate in rituals and ceremonies. The island of Rai Jua, just to the west of the island of Savu produces an unusual two-part indigo woman’s sarong called ei pudi wo datu. Datu refers to the flower of the lontar palm which produces a liquid called tuak which flows from the stalk of the cut palm flower. This drink is an essential food for the people of Rai Jua especially during the dry season when food is scarce. The ei pudi is woven with blue-black and white threads. The tie-dye white circle on the finished textile is made by tying a mung bean, sorghum or corn seed to creating a resist pattern. The final over-dyeing with indigo produces an overall blue-black color of the textile.

Hig’i Wo Pidu

Higi Wo PiduThe culture of Savu and Rai Jua places great weight on ancestry, birthplace, and community life. The local traditional religion, called Jingi Tiu, requires every member of the village to participate in rituals and ceremonies.

The hig’i wo pidu is a textile used as ceremonial dress for men. The collective identity of the women descent groups or hubi, wini, and the male descent groups or udu is the basis of Savu culture, a legacy from the ancestors that demands to be honored. Hig’i is translated as blanket, wo means pattern and pidu means seven. This textile is defined by its odd number of stripes.


Heleda

HeledaThe people of this island have a strong culture and while many have converted to Christianity the traditional religion Jingi Tiu still prevails. All ceremonies related to land management are overseen by traditional leaders called Mone Ama. Within the Mone Ama is the Apu Lodo “Descendent of the Sun” and Deo Rai “Lord of the Land”. Textiles are an important aspect of ceremonial life.

This single panel ikat shoulder scarf called heleda is worn by men or women for ceremonies and special occasions.


Wai Wake

Wai WakeThe people of this island have a strong culture and while many have converted to Christianity the traditional belief system – Jingi Tiu still prevails. All ceremonies related to land management are overseen by traditional leaders called Mone Ama. Within the Mone Ama is the Apu Lodo “Descendent of the Sun” and Deo Rai “Lord of the Land”.

Textiles are an important aspect of ceremonial life. This cloth called wai wake is a used by a man as a belt that is tied over the traditional hip cloth; hig’i wo heo. The structure of a hig’i wo heo textile contains nine ikat bands indicating a high social rank among the people that follow the traditional ways of Jingi Tiu.

Kerogo

 

KerogoKerogo is a traditional basket made from young lontar (Borassus flabellifera) palm leaf. It is used by both Savunese men and women to carry food when they go out to work in their garden. The inner part would be where they would put rice and the top would contain salt or chili pepper to eat with the rice. The string is made from the stem of the lontar and then twinned to make it stronger.

  • Traditional Basket
  • 2014
  • Savu Raijua, Savu
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 18 cm. (7.5 in)
  • Diameter 17 cm. (7 in)
  • Code # A01.SB.HM.031

He Gudu

 

HeguduThis traditional hat, He Gudu, worn by men in the village of Mehara in Savu, is made from dried lontar palm leaves (Borassus flabellifera).  When woven tightly the hat will shed water so it can be worn in the rain. The seeds on the top of the hat come from the tree called Nitas (Sterculia foetida) and are said to repel lightning. Threads of Life is working with communities throughout Indonesia to revive cultural arts other than textiles as a means of supporting the tradition and providing livelihood to communities.

  • Traditional Hat
  • 2009
  • Savu Raijua, Savu
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 13 cm. (5.4 in)
  • Diameter 43 cm. (18 in)
  • Code # A01.SB.TR.009

Wo Keriwu Nona

 

Keriwu NonaThe whimsical decoration called Wo Keriwu Nona is made from lontar palm leaves (Borassus flabellifera). It is used as a decoration in the homes of the Savunese around the main town of Seba.

  • Traditional Wedding Decoration
  • 2009
  • Savu Raijua, Savu
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 27 cm. (11.25 in)
  • Diameter 50 cm. (20.8 in)
  • Code # A01.SB.TR.005

Haba Nginu

 

Haba NginuLontar (Borrasus flabellifera) has many applications in Savunese society. The liquid tapped from its infloresence is a highly nutritional daily beverage served from this scoop called Haba Nginu made from the young lontar leaves. The sweet palm water may be cooked into a sugar that is very viscous and stored in clay pots called Eru varying in size of 2 – 30 liters. A family will require a minimum amount of 200 liters as a source of sustanence to take them through the season from November to February when there is no more tapping.

  • Traditional Scoop
  • 2010
  • Savu Raijua, Savu
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 10 cm. (4 in)
  • Width 12 cm. (5 in)
  • Length 15 cm. (6.2 in)
  • Code # A01.SB.TR.018

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